FEBRUARY SKYNOTES, 2018

FEBRUARY STAR CHART, 2018
Please click on the Chart to enlarge, if necessary.

The chart shows the whole sky, at the times given at the top left of the chart.
The edge of the chart is the HORIZON, and the ZENITH is at the centre.
This chart is for LATITUDE 54 degrees NORTH, and is produced using 'PLANETARIUM GOLD' software.

 

February 2018

As the month starts, the Sun lies within the constellation of Capricornus, the Sea Goat until it crosses the border with Aquarius on the 16th at around 10h, where it remains until the month’s end.
The Moon
The Moon’s perigee (nearest to the Earth) occurs at 14h on the 11th and next at apogee (furthest from the Earth) on the 27th at 14h.

Last Quarter Moon is on Feb 7th at 15h55 in the constellation of Libra.

New Moon is on the 15th at 21h06 in the constellation of Capricormus, near its border with Aquarius, just below the Sun’s southern limb. From the daylight hemisphere of Antarctica, a partial eclipse of the Sun takes place, which is visible also from Chile and Argentina and the Falkland Islands.

First Quarter takes place on the 23rd at 08h10 in Taurus, when in the early evening, a lunar occultation of Aldebaran takes place. Aldebaran (alpha Tauri) is the ‘red eye of the Bull’ at visual magnitude +0.9 is the brightest star in Taurus. (See table below for details.)

Look out for ‘Earthshine’ illuminating the dark hemisphere of the waxing crescent Moon from the 16th to the 22nd. Look also for earthshine on the waning crescent Moon from the 8th until the 14th.
Earthshine is a beautiful naked eye phenomenon, but if you turn your binoculars towards the Moon, it is a truly magical sight.

The Planets
Mercury is in superior conjunction with the Sun on the 17th. Thereafter it moves into the evening sky for its best evening apparition during March. You may possibly glimpse it at the very end of February, when it sets just one hour after the Sun. Therefore between sunset and this time, use binoculars to scan for this elusive planet very low down in the SW just above the horizon in the bright twilight.

Venus also emerges from the glare of the Sun into the evening sky and sets an hour after the Sun by the end of the month. Chances are that as you scan for Mercury, you will most certainly come across Venus first as it is by far the brighter of these two innermost planets; so having found Venus, you should be able to locate dimmer Mercury nearby. On the 28th of February, Mercury lies just 2.5° (five Moon widths) to the lower right of Venus, some 4° above the WSW horizon at 18h.


Mars is a morning object, rising between 03h and 04h during February, some 4 hours before the Sun. The planet moves eastwards throughout the month, through Scorpius into Ophiuchus, and becomes brighter during this time. Mars may be looked for low in the SE sky from 04h onwards. By the end of the month, it becomes as bright as Altair in Aquila, the Eagle and Aldebaran in Taurus, which the planet resembles because of the reddish colour of both. During the morning of the 9th, Mars and the Moon are in the same part of the sky. The ‘red planet’ lies 3° to the lower right of the waning crescent Moon at 04h.

At the beginning of February, Jupiter rises at 02h, and by half past midnight at the month’s end. The planet is moving slowly eastwards through the quadrilateral of stars, which we know as the constellation Libra. With the exception of the Moon, Jupiter is currently the brightest object in the early morning sky. The last quarter Moon may be seen passing north of the planet on the mornings of the 7th and 8th.

The season for observing the planet with its satellites has started, so sharply focussed firmly fixed binoculars will reveal the disc of the planet and the ever-changing positions of the Galilean satellites.

Saturn lies in the constellation of Sagittarius and may be seen low in the SE as twilight begins. The telescopic view of the planet is good, as the rings are still wide open and presenting their northern surface in our direction. During the morning of the 11th, the waning crescent Moon is in the same part of the sky as Saturn, and at 06h Saturn lies 4° to the lower left of the Moon.

Uranus at magnitude of +5.85, near the threshold of naked eye visibility, is to be found in the constellation of Pisces, some 3° west of the 4.26 magnitude star Torcularis Septentri (omicron Piscium). During February the planet sets in the late evening.

Neptune, is still in the constellation of Aquarius, and at the end of the month sets with the Sun. It is not really a suitable object for observation this month, lying as it does below naked eye visibility in the encroaching evening twilight. Indeed, Neptune is far beyond, and in conjunction with the Sun at the beginning of March.

There are no major meteor showers during the month, and so we expect to see the normal background rate of four noticeable events during each hour of the night.

Constellations visible in the south around midnight, mid-month, are as follows: Cancer, Leo, Hydra, with its brightest star Alphard (‘the solitary one’), and the faint constellation of Sextans the Sextant, to be found just below Leo’s brightest star Regulus.

All times are GMT 1° is one finger width at arm’s length.

 

 

FEBRUARY 2018 SUMMARY OF EVENTS

 

The phenomena of the month : February 2018
Times are given in UT for SCARBOROUGH (0° 25' 5" W, 54° 16' 30" N, zone UT).

 

Date Hour Description of the phenomenon
yyyy mm dd hh:mm

 

2018 02 01 23:22 Opposition of the asteroid 19 Fortuna with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.443 AU; magn. = 10.1)
2018 02 02 02:49 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2018 02 02 17:46 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2018 02 02 19:52 Minimum of the variable star beta Lyrae
2018 02 03 07:49 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2018 02 04 23:38 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2018 02 07 15:54 LAST QUARTER OF THE MOON
2018 02 07 20:27 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2018 02 08 02:34 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2018 02 08 03:14 Beginning of occultation of 38-gamma Lib (magn. = 3.91)
2018 02 08 04:18 End of occultation of 38-gamma Lib (magn. = 3.91)
2018 02 08 05:50 Maximum of the variable star zeta Gemini
2018 02 09 07:15 Close encounter between the Moon and Mars (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 3.5°)
2018 02 10 12:03 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2018 02 10 17:17 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2018 02 11 14:16 Moon at apogee (geocentric dist. = 405700 km)
2018 02 11 23:59 Close encounter between Mars and Antares (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 5.1°)
2018 02 12 05:44 End of occultation of 36-xi1 Sgr (magn. = 5.02)
2018 02 13 11:22 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2018 02 13 14:06 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2018 02 15 18:27 Minimum of the variable star beta Lyrae
2018 02 15 21:05 NEW MOON (partial eclipse of the Sun not visible in SCARBOROUGH)
2018 02 16 10:55 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2018 02 17 12:26 SUPERIOR CONJUNCTION of Mercury with the Sun (geoc. dist. centre to centre = 2.0°)
2018 02 17 16:17 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2018 02 18 09:26 Maximum of the variable star zeta Gemini
2018 02 18 20:09 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2018 02 19 07:45 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2018 02 22 04:34 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2018 02 23 08:09 FIRST QUARTER OF THE MOON
2018 02 23 16:38 Beginning of occultation of 87-alpha Tau, Aldébaran, (magn. = 0.87)
2018 02 23 17:48 End of occultation of 87-alpha Tau, Aldébaran, (magn. = 0.87)
2018 02 24 04:57 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2018 02 24 20:31 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2018 02 25 01:23 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2018 02 26 05:06 Opposition of the asteroid 51 Nemausa with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.216 AU; magn. = 9.8)
2018 02 27 14:48 Moon at perigee (geocentric dist. = 363933 km)
2018 02 27 22:12 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2018 02 28 13:03 Maximum of the variable star zeta Gemini
2018 02 28 17:01 Minimum of the variable star beta Lyrae
2018 02 28 18:50 End of occultation of 16-psi Leo (magn. = 5.36)

 

Generated using COELIX APEX software

FEBRUARY 2018 LUNAR OCCULTATIONS VISIBLE FROM SCARBOROUGH, UK.
Times are UT, so add 01h for Summer Time - Daylight Saving.
Generated using COELIX software